Vista: Not an XP Replacement

We interrupt this blog…

Hi, I’m Dave Methvin, Chief Technology Officer at PC Pitstop. Our CEO, Rob Cheng, is recovering from an accident; we all wish him well on a quick recovery. I’ll be filling in on the Pit Blog until he’s back up to speed.

Back in his June entry, Rob mentioned the outrageously high resource requirements for Microsoft’s successor to Windows XP, named Vista. At the time, Microsoft was recommending 1GB of system memory and 256MB of dedicated video memory. Not long after that, though, the information at Microsoft’s Vista site changed again. Now, Microsoft is saying that you can get by with as little as 512MB of system memory and just 64MB of video memory, as long as you are using a video resolution of 1280×1024 or less. If you want a quick take on whether your computer is ready for Vista, check out our Vista Readiness Test. We’ll do our best to update the test for Microsoft’s ever-changing requirements.

Vista’s specifications have changed–did Microsoft make it less of a pig, or did they simply play games with the requirements? My bet is on the latter. I can just imagine the folks at Dell, Gateway, HP, and other computer makers sitting down with their morning coffee, reading those original requirements, spewing coffee all over their monitors, and picking up the phone to Microsoft. Most of the basic configurations sold by PC makers right now do not meet the hardware requirements for Vista, you can go and check them yourself. Beefing up those configurations means a price increase. Oh yeah, and you have to pay more for Vista too.

Want to upgrade your own PC? It’s not just a case of dropping the $399 for Vista Ultimate; you’ll often need to buy more memory and possibly a new video card. Also expect to buy new utilities such as antivirus software–nope, not even the top-end Vista Ultimate version includes antivirus software.  Maybe they should call it Vista Penultimate.

There is plenty of good news for XP users in all this. XP will not be going away any time soon. For all its flaws, it’s well understood and shaken out by more than five years of real-world experience. XP can perform well on systems where Vista can’t even install. Microsoft will continue to support XP for years to come, and new software such as IE7 will be released for XP as well. PC Pitstop will help people make XP better as long as XP is alive.

Eventually, probably early next year, Vista will be released. PC Pitstop will dig into Vista and find out how it can be tweaked to make it better and faster, based on the information we get from real-world Vista users. The betas we’ve seen reveal that Vista has made some improvements, but it still hasn’t addressed some age-old problems that we constantly identify and fix in XP. Once real users get their hands on the shipping version of Vista, it’s likely that there will be new and unique problems reported as well; PC Pitstop will help users find and fix them.

If you’re planning to buy a new PC soon, there’s no harm in buying hardware that is beefy enough to run Vista. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to wait. Vista is still a moving target that is several months from its release. Buy a new PC with XP today and avoid the teething pains of Vista.

By the time Vista is truly shaken out it will be a year from now, and you can use that as an excuse to buy a new PC again!


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